REVELATION’S OT SOURCES

PMT 2014-048 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.Old Testament

Revelation is a difficult book to interpret. We must read it carefully to detect clues as to John’s meaning. One important issue regarding Revelation’s interpretation regards it extremely Hebraic style. In this brief series I will be highlighting several elements of its Hebraic character.

As a Redemptive-historical Preterist I believe that John is writing about the soon-coming destruction of the Jewish temple in AD 70. When we read Rev we are immediately struck by John’s strongly Jewish presentation. No competent commentator fails to mention this. Fiorenza notes that “it is often judged to be more Jewish than Christian.” Charles argues on the basis of its style that it is obvious that John was a “Palestinian Jew.” Buchanan agrees with J. F. Whealon who “observed that Rev 4:1–22:7 was a Jewish document that was later Christianized by the introduction, conclusion, and a few editorial additions.”

Moyise speaks of “the fact that Revelation can be taken as a profoundly Christian or essentially Jewish” work. Indeed, Bultmann goes so far as to argue that Rev is a “thinly disguised Jewish work.” Marshall even (wrongly) drops the whole idea that Rev is a Christian text by proposing that it is actually a Jewish text urging Asia Minor Jews to quit compromising with secular culture.


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Rev’s intensely Jewish style comports well with a focus on the events associated with the judgment on Israel and the closing of the old covenant order in AD 70. I will be presenting four brief studies demonstrating its Hebrew cast. In this study I will note its:

Old Testament Sources

Beale and Carson point out that “no other book of the NT is as permeated by the OT as is Revelation.” Indeed, “many exegetes have demonstrated that the Apocalypse contains more allusions drawn from the OT writings than any other book in the NT” (Smolarz). Beale states further that “the OT in general plays such a major role that a proper understanding of its use is necessary for an adequate view of the Apocalypse as a whole.” L. Vos declares that John’s “uses of the Old Testament material is without parallel or equal in the New Testament writings.” Prigent adds regarding such required knowledge of the OT: “this prophecy presupposes a well-informed audience.” John assumes his audience’s familiarity with the OT Scriptures.

But why does John so deeply engage the OT? Corsini (403) highlights the importance of John’s OT allusions: It is his “desire to go back, particularly in the face of his Jewish opponents, to the authentic sources of their own revelations.” John does this because he is dealing with the closing of the old covenant economy involving the collapse of the Jewish temple system and the victory of Christianity’s struggle with mother Israel.

Corsini well notes in this regard that “the greatest irony is that John takes the very scriptures of the Jews to show that their worldly hopes, their worldly cult which had become an end in itself was not faithful to their own Book: the story of the Lamb is!” Though unnecessarily limiting his observations to his own special focus, Mathewson admits that “given the role that the Jewish communities played in chs. 2–3, and given the massive recourse to Jewish Scripture in 21.1–22.5, it seems likely that John’s appropriation of Old Testament texts can be accounted for at least partly in light of polemic with Jewish opponents over the interpretation of the Old Testament and the status and identification of the Christian community.”

Matthewson adds further: “One of the functions of John’s allusive appeal to Old Testament texts is to reassert the self-understanding of this readers over against the Jewish community therefore the Christian communities in Asia are the true covenant people of God and recipients of Israel’s promises of restored communion and fellowship.”


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No authoritative source would be more compelling to get John’s point across regarding God’s judgment on Israel than language from Israel’s own Bible drawn especially from her own prophets. No “proof” of God’s coming judgment would be more relevant than the OT. In Rev John is not only making this point dramatically, but he is even framing it in such a way as to reinforce it.

 

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2 thoughts on “REVELATION’S OT SOURCES

  1. Alex Suarez April 22, 2014 at 10:46 pm

    Mr. Gentry, thanks for your consistent work.

    I have a question though: The partial preterist approach (though I like it on many fronts) seems almost new (historically speaking). I find it hard to find a reading of Revelation in Church history that is preterist. The traditional approach seems to be that of – in the words of Francis Nigel Lee – “classical historicism”.

    Your thoughts are appreciated.

  2. Kenneth Gentry April 23, 2014 at 9:15 am

    Thanks for your note. I will deal with this in a future post. Be aware: Eusebius (AD 325) was a preterist on Matthew 24. And Andreas of Cappadocia (6th century) included preterist elements in his commentary on Revelation. Classical historicism is self-refuting. Read a classical-historicist commentary from 100 years ago and see how wrong and out-of-date it was. I’ll write more on that too.

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